Alice’s Soul Food will remain open, relatives say

March 20, 2012
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Alice Carter, owner of Alice’s Soul Food restaurant, died Wednesday after a battle with a brief illness, but her restaurant will stay open.

Carter’s daughter, Jackie, said the restaurant, located at 5838 W. Chicago Ave., will continue to feed the West Side because that’s what her mother, known in the neighborhood as Miss Alice, would want.

“We have no intention of shutting down,” Jackie said. “God has given us the strength to continue.”

Jackie called her mother a “leader and an inspiration,” saying that Alice considered her customers family.

“She’s a pillar in the community,” Jackie said. “She would do whatever she could to help people. If they came in hungry, she wouldn’t turn them away.”

Alice operated and cooked at the restaurant – at various locations on the West Side – for more than three decades. All Alice’s meals were cooked using her personal recipes.

The restaurant is known for its delicious southern-style food, and those who ate and worked at the restaurant say Alice was always welcoming.

Willie Handy, a cook at Alice’s for 17 years, said he and Alice were good friends.

“I’d be cooking, and she’d be mad at me for a moment, then a few minutes later she’d come back and say, ‘I’m just messing with you,’” Handy said, laughing.

Alice would always be coking right next to him.

“She had her own special area that she cooked in with her seasoning,” Handy said. “She was a lot of fun to work with.”

Malcolm Crawford, co-founder of the Sankofa Cultural Arts & Business Center, located just down the street from Alice’s, said Carter was the epitome of an entrepreneur, and her death is a “great loss to the community.”

“She reupholstered those tables and chairs in there herself,” he said. “She could do it all. She could paint, do the carpet work and could cook … she did it all.”

Jackie said her mother was a “jack of all trades.”

“I remember when we were kids, we had an apartment down east on California. She redid the whole house … our house was the best in the neighborhood. People would come in just to see how beautiful it was.”

Crawford said he hopes and prays the restaurant will stay open.

Edna’s, another famous soul food restaurant on the West Side, shut its doors after its owner, Edna Steward, died in 2010.

He doesn’t want that to happen to Alice’s.

“Miss Alice has left a legacy,” he said. “With her illness, the family continued to run it. Even today it continues to run. It’s my hope that what she’s put in place will continue on.”

Thomas Hampton, another cook who’s worked at Alice’s for 10 years, said Alice was like a mother to him.

“She really helped me in times when I was down and out,” Hampton said. “I had no job, and she took a chance with me when no one else would.”

He said he will remember Alice laughing and having a good time. Her encouraging words will continue to keep him strong, he said.

“This is a devastating loss for me personally,” Hampton said.

“I’m going to miss her a lot.”

AustinTalks featured the restaurant in 2010 when it moved from Division Street and Pine Avenue and reopened at the Chicago Avenue location.

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